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Full Planet, Empty Plates Appetizer Slideshow


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Full Planet, Empty Plates Appetizer Slideshow

  1. 1. An overview presentation for Full Planet, Empty Plates:The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity A book by Lester R. Brown
  2. 2. An Era of Rising Food Prices• 2007-08: Grain and soybean prices more than doubled, leading to food riots and unrest in some 60 countries• Prices eased somewhat with global recession• 2010-11: Another price spike helped fuel the Arab Spring• 2012: Prices again approaching or setting records Corn Futures Prices Wheat Futures Prices Soybean Futures Prices Source: CME Group
  3. 3. Precarious Global Food SituationWorld Grain Production and Consumption, • Dangerously small 1960-2011 margin between grain consumption and grain production • Now we face long-term trends that: – increase food demand – limit food production We are only one poor harvest away from chaos in world grain markets. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Tobias Helbig
  4. 4. Demand Growing, Supply StrainedDemand Side Supply Side• Growing population • Eroding soils• People moving up the • Depleting aquifers food chain • Plateauing grain• Biofuels turning food yields into fuel • Rising temperature Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Tobias Helbig
  5. 5. From Surplus to ScarcityWorld Grain Stocks as Days of • In the past, world had Consumption, 1990-2012 two safety cushions in case of harvest shortfall: – idled U.S. cropland – large stocks of grain • Now, we have lost those two safety cushions – U.S. abandoned cropland set aside programs – grain stocks have fallen dangerously low Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Tobias Helbig
  6. 6. Population Pressures• 7 billion people on the World Population, 1800-2010, with Projection to 2100 planet• Each year, nearly 80 million people added• Some 215 million women who want to plan their families lack access to family planning services• Large families trap people in poverty We are fast outgrowing the earth’s capacity to sustain our increasing numbers. Photo Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
  7. 7. System Overload• Overfishing: 80% of oceanic fisheries are being fished at or beyond their sustainable yield• Overgrazing: The global grazing livestock population grew by 1.2 billion animals since 1960• Overcutting: The world’s forests lose a net 5.6 million hectares—an area the size of Costa Rica— each year• Overplowing: In parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, productive cropland is turning into wasteland• Overpumping: Half the world’s population lives in countries that are extracting groundwater from aquifers faster than it is replenished Photo Credit: USDA/ Stephen Ausmus; Yann Arthus-Bertrand
  8. 8. More Meat, More Feed• World meat demand grew World Meat Production by Type, 1950-2010 fivefold since 1950• As incomes rise, some 3 billion people in the developing world desire to eat more meat, milk, and eggs• This requires more grain and soybeans for animal feed Photo Credit: USDA / Keith Weller
  9. 9. Feeding Cars Instead of People • U.S. corn is largest crop of Corn Use for Feed and Fuel Ethanol any grain worldwide, critical in the United States, 1980-2011 to world supplies • Close to 1/3 of U.S. grain now going to ethanol • Grain used to fuel U.S. cars in 2011 could otherwise have fed 400 million people • U.S. ethanol euphoria beginning in 2005 helped raise food prices worldwideThe grain needed to fill an SUV’s 25-gallon tank withethanol once could feed one person for a year. Photo Credit: USDA / Scott Bauer
  10. 10. Worsening Soil Erosion• Overplowing, overgrazing, and deforestation make soil vulnerable to wind and water erosion• Roughly 1/3 of the world’s cropland is now losing topsoil faster than it can be re-formed• Topsoil loss reduces productivity, eventually leading farmers and herders to abandon their land• Countries such as Lesotho, Haiti, Mongolia, and North Korea are losing the ability to feed themselves Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Steven Allan
  11. 11. Dust Bowls Today• Now overgrazing in northwestern China and western Mongolia is leading to the merging of deserts and the formation of dust storms that sweep across the continent, sometimes even as far as North America• Population and livestock pressure in the African Sahel has destroyed soils; dust storms carrying 2–3 billion tons of soil leave Africa each yearThese two newer dust bowls dwarf anything theworld has seen before. We have yet to see theirfull effects. Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
  12. 12. Coming Water Shortages 18 countries, 3.6 billion people Source: EPI• Overpumping produces food bubbles that burst when water supplies dry up• 175 million people in India and 130 million people in China eat grain produced by overpumping• In the Arab Middle East, a collision between population growth and water supply is reducing regional grain harvests
  13. 13. Saudi Arabia’s Bursting Bubble• Saudi Arabia became Wheat Production in Saudi Arabia, 1995- self-sufficient in wheat 2011, with Projection to 2016 by tapping its non- replenishable aquifer to irrigate the desert• In early 2008, the government announced the aquifer was largely depleted• The population of nearly 30 million will be entirely dependent on imported grain by 2016Saudi Arabia is the first country to publicly project howaquifer depletion will shrink its grain harvest. Photo Credit: NASA
  14. 14. Growth in Grain Yields Slowing World Average Grain Yield, 1950-2011• World average grain yield has tripled since 1950• But the pace of growth is slowing – 1950-1990: It grew 2.2% per year – 1990-2011: It grew 1.3% per yearIn some of the more agriculturally advancedcountries, the increase in grain yields has come to anend. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Simon Oxley
  15. 15. Where Else Will Grain Yields Stall?• Wheat yields in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have not increased in more than a decade• Japan’s rice yields have plateaued; China’s may be leveling off as well• With rising temperatures, farmers everywhere face new climate constraints even as they approach biological limits Thus far, rice or wheat yields have plateaued only in medium-sized countries. What happens when grain yields plateau in some of the larger ones? Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Dave Hughes
  16. 16. Higher Temperatures, Lower Yields• The massive burning of fossil fuels is increasing the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, raising the earth’s temperature and disrupting climate• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects earth’s average temperature will rise up to 6.4 C (11.5 F) during this century• Current trajectory is already outpacing projections• For every 1°C rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season, yields of wheat, rice, and corn can be expected to drop 10% Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / dra_schwartz
  17. 17. No More ―Normal‖• In the past, extreme weather events were anomalies and farmers could expect a return to normal conditions by the next harvest• But with rising temperatures and changing climate, there is no normal to return to• The 11,000 year period of relative climate stability in which agriculture developed is over• Increasing world grain stocks to ~110 days of consumption is one way to create a buffer against extreme weatherWith each passing year, the agricultural system isbecoming more out of sync with the climate system. Photo Credit: USDA/Jack Dykinga
  18. 18. Soybeans Rise to Prominence• Soybeans originated in China 3,000 years ago World Soybean Production, 1950-2011• Since 1930, soybean meal has been mixed into livestock feed as a source of high-quality protein• Today, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina combined account for over four fifths of the total world production of nearly 250 million tons Photo Credit: USDA/ Scott Bauer
  19. 19. China Dominates Demand• In 2008, China surpassed Soybean Production, Consumption, and the United States as the Imports in China, 1964-2011 leading soybean consumer• 500 million pigs – half the world total – live in China, eating soybean meal mixed with grain• China currently imports 60% of all soybeans traded internationallyAs China and other developing countries continue to moveup the food chain, this demand will only increase. Photo Credit: USDA/ Keith Weller
  20. 20. New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity• Doubling of grain, soybean Large-scale Land Acquisitions by Project prices in 2007-08 revealed a Type, October 2008 – August 2009 new geopolitics of food— every country for itself: – Russia, Thailand, other grain exporting countries restricted or banned exports – Some importers turned to buying or leasing tracts of land in other countries on which to grow food – These land acquisitions, often called ―land grabs,‖ multiplied quickly Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Pawel Gaul
  21. 21. Ethiopia as Microcosm• Farmers, indigenous people often find out about deals only as they are forced from their land – By early 2012, more than 1 million Ethiopians forcibly relocated by their government• Informal land rights make it difficult for people to protest• Projects using highly-mechanized, industrial agriculture; few jobs for local people• Food produced most often shipped to investor’s home country, contributing nothing to the local food supply• Land grabs for agriculture are also necessarily water grabs Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / BanksPhotos
  22. 22. Toward a More Stable Food SystemDemand Side Supply Side• Stabilize population • Conserve soil• Eradicate poverty • Increase water• Reduce excessive meat productivity consumption • Fill the yield gap• Eliminate biofuels • Stabilize climate mandatesIf we tackle both sides of the food equation, we canrebuild world grain stocks, improving food security. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto / Niko Vujevic
  23. 23. Redefining Security• Historically, security has been defined mostly in military terms• But today climate volatility, emerging water shortages, spreading hunger, and failing states are the new threats to survival• Food security is not just in the hands of agricultural departments• The challenge is to reorder fiscal priorities to match these new dangers Photo Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
  24. 24. To learn more about the global food situation… read Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester R. Brown. The book and supporting data sets are available at